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LAND O'LAKES - Following their first defeat of the season Monday to Pasco, there were two ways Land O'Lakes was going to come out Tuesday night against River Ridge: on fire or flat.
While the Gators had the mind-set of a team looking to rebound, they did not have the performance, as the Royal Knights cruised to a 25-16, 25-23, 25-14 victory over their district and Sunshine Athletic Conference foes.
"We were all excited for this match," Land O'Lakes coach Jessica McCoy said. "I don't know if it's the stigma of River Ridge. But when we were going into the game, we weren't flat, but when we got onto the court we were."
Both teams started the first game strong. But with the score tied at six each, the Royal Knights (7-1 overall, 4-0 in Class 5A, District 7) went on a 6-0 run, largely on the serving of Brittany Frey.
After a point on a sideout, the junior reeled off five consecutive service points, giving River Ridge a 12-6 advantage. After a Gators rally made the score 21-15, Frey closed out the game with three more service points, following a sideout.
Frey finished with a game-high 17 service points and two aces.
Land O'Lakes' had a chance to take control in the second game. But after jumping out to leads of 8-2 and 18-13, the Royal Knights rallied to tie it at 22 * the strength of outside hitter Brooke Castelamare and middle hitter Alex Laton.
Castelamare killed the Gators' momentum with three aces in the game, while Laton's five kills regenerated the Knights' offensive attack. Castelamare finished with six aces, five kills, and 14 digs, while Laton notched a game-high 11 kills.
"It was nice to come in and do what we're supposed to do," River Ridge coach Heidi Castelamare said.
Junior middle hitter Kayli Keough led the Gators (5-2, 3-1) with nine kills.